The highly anticipated food and drink specials will change weekly
By Yoko Minoura
Activity on the golf course at Tetherow is winding down, but things in The Row restaurant’s kitchen are really heating up.
The end of golf season marks the beginning of annual, highly anticipated food and drink specials at The Row. From November through March, the restaurant spotlights one local brewery per month by dedicating three beer taps at the bar and running a rotating menu of roughly five new dishes, changing every one or two weeks, that incorporate beer into the food. This year, the lineup will also include a cider maker.
“Everyone loves it,” Tetherow Head Chef Justin Birtola said. “We get people that come in every week just to see what’s new on the menu.”
Although he has been cooking restaurant fare that incorporates beer for at least 10 years, Birtola said Tetherow is the only place, even here in Bend, Oregon, that has really embraced the concept of a beer-infused menu. Other restaurants tended to feature those items as only as specials.
“Tetherow puts a lot of trust into its chefs, which gives us a lot of freedom to research and develop new recipes,” he said. “It gives me time to teach other employees about cooking with beer, which is fun for me.”
He said beer generally works as a bittering agent in food, and can sometimes stand in for vegetables such as Brussels sprouts or beets; darks beers can also impart smoky or dark flavors like those found in Worcestershire sauce or molasses.
Birtola particularly wanted to praise his sous chef, Matt Hogstad, who has taken over the majority of the menu planning, preparation and execution of the “Eat Your Beer” menu recently. And Row Manager Sean Mercer – who handles the “Drink Your Beer” section of the menu – also tries each dish and decides on the recommended pairing.
(Pairing beer with food takes center stage at an upcoming special event hosted by Tetherow, dubbed the “Brewery Smackdown,” set for January. Two Oregon breweries will face off against two Washington breweries; each team will present their best pairings during a multicourse meal with a preset menu. Diners vote by secret ballot after each course to determine the winning pairing.)
The featured brewery program has been successful enough that members have asked him for pointers on cooking with beer, Birtola said. Occasionally, a table will ask to speak to him to get tips on how to recreate a dish at home. He said they have even gotten positive feedback from people who profess to dislike beer.
“We cook with flavor in mind, not beer,” Birtola said. “With that in mind, I’d encourage people to try the food even if they don’t like beer.”
The biggest challenge he faces?
“Just prepping enough,” he said. “Sometimes we sell out fast.”
The Row will feature Bend Brewing Company for the month of November; No. 6 Cider (located in Seattle, but owned by a Tetherow member) in December; Monkless Belgian Ales, based in Bend, in January; Wild Ride Brewing, out of Redmond, in February; and North Rim Brewing, also of Bend, in March.